Use these milestones to create opportunities for
celebrating faithful attendance, diligent teaching, and successful
When parents enroll their children in ballet, soccer, or music
lessons, they conscientiously note registration deadlines and dates
of classes, games, and final programs on the family calendar so
their children won’t miss a thing.
We can foster a similar commitment to Sunday school attendance
even though our programming is year-round. By building and
celebrating specific checkpoints in our ministries, we can
stimulate enthusiastic participation and maintain consistent
Marking milestones in children’s ministry creates ways for
children and parents to periodically renew their commitment to
participate. Milestones also create opportunities for celebrating
faithful attendance, diligent teaching, and successful
Milestones allow us to look back and praise God for all he has
accomplished and to look ahead in faith to what God has planned for
us in the future. Like the Israelites who erected literal “stones
of remembrance” to remind them of how far God had brought them, we
need mile markers like these to remind us that God is at work in
our church and in our lives.
A BEGINNING AND AN END
Begin your education year on the Sunday after Labor Day in
September and end on the Sunday before Memorial Day in May. Avoid
the actual holiday weekends because attendance will likely be low.
Make these Sundays festive with any of the following ideas.
- Have a world of fun theme. Study missionaries around the world
and play games from other countries.
- Make presentations. Give a Bible to each graduating third
grader and a picture of Jesus to each graduating kindergartner in
- Affirm your staff. Recognize teachers by giving them red
corsages. Give assistants white corsages and staff people yellow
- Have a mystery or detective theme. Use magnifying glasses to
promote “what children will discover about God” this year.
Give glimpses of your ministry. Show slides or a video of children
in Sunday school classes. Play a background song such as Amy
Grant’s “Baby, Baby.”
- Hold an open house for parents. Display art projects and
curriculum posters of what’ll be happening this quarter. Have
teachers explain the curriculum to parents.
- Announce special events that’ll happen throughout the year. For
example, designate specific field trips that certain age groups get
to go on each year. The fifth-grade class can visit another church
in town while the second graders see sheep at a nearby farm.
If your new Sunday school year begins in September, designate
the Sundays in August as Registration Sundays. That way you can
reach everyone despite vacation schedules. Even children whose
families never miss a week will enjoy signing up for their new
Give registered children a colorful enrollment card that
identifies their class, teacher, room number, and the start and end
dates of the school year. Seasonal registration reinforces for
children and parents that they’re committing to attend for a
specific period of time rather than just dropping in whenever they
feel like it.
Make the first Sunday of the new Sunday school year a memorable
event. Select a theme design, slogan, or Bible verse to feature on
name tags, bulletin covers, classroom doors, bulletin boards,
banners, posters, and the refreshment table. For example, do an
Up, Up, and Away with Jesus theme, and have helium
balloons all over your church. Enlist someone to make balloon
sculptures for children. Or even better, find someone to set up a
hot-air balloon in your church parking lot. Check out your
insurance policy before you decide to give rides.
Make the last Sunday of the Sunday school year special, too.
Serve brunch or a luncheon to honor the volunteers and teachers who
worked faithfully throughout the school year. Hold an open house
that showcases the children’s best work. Invite parents to class
parties. Replace regular Sunday school classes with an assembly
featuring Bible story skits, puppet plays, songs, and Scripture
memory verses the children have learned during the year.
Advancement to a new school grade is a significant event for
children. They identify themselves with their next grade on the day
school closes in the spring. While churches have traditionally
promoted children to their new grades in the fall, promotion at the
beginning of summer has definite advantages. Promoting children in
the spring capitalizes on their excitement about being a grade
older and may actually enhance summer attendance. What
self-respecting third grader wants to remain in the second-grade
class all summer long?
The relaxed, informal activities of summer make it an ideal time to
transition your graduating fifth or sixth graders into the youth
ministry. Promotion Sunday makes the change an occasion to
anticipate rather than something to dread.
Sharon Short is a Christian education consultant in
Michigan. Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and
prices are subject to change.